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The Om Puri that not many knew about 

From sipping coffee to taking a personal interest in the welfare of a nearby garden, and distributing mangoes to the guards, the late actor was cordial to most people around his residence.

Mayur Lookhar

Rich, poor, famous or infamous. Death spares none. What differs is the how each man is mourned. The mere mortals are mourned by their kin and few friends, but the death of celebrated figures often attracts huge crowds. Not all film stars get such attention, but what’s common with actors’ deaths is how the mourners mostly marvel at the feats achieved by the deceased in his career. 

"He or she was a great actor, it’s a great loss for the industry, I’d worked with him or her" - these are often the standard words you hear at celebrity funerals. Not that the celebrity mourners are faking, their words, the condolence is genuine but there’s a bit of a monotony attached to it all. As honest and contrite they are in their mourning, these celebrities don’t figure in the day-to-day life of the deceased. 

For all their feats, actors are humans, they live and breathe like most of us. Apart from their immediate family, it is the people around their vicinity who perhaps know things which the celebrity mourners might not be privy to. 

As veteran actor Om Puri passed away on 6 January due to a heart attack, Cinestaan.com bumped into a few people, who didn’t know him all that personally, but yet the actor left an indelible mark on them. 

We visited a popular cafe near his Versova residence (Trishul Apartments), where the actor made sporadic appearances. This cafe is just a year old and most of the employees are new, but we did bump into one who has been associated with the cafe since it opened. 

The female employee said, "He’s not regular visitor, but Om Puri did visit our cafe twice or thrice. It was perhaps a festive occasion, our cafe was decorated. The moment he arrived, all of us were excited to get a picture with him. He’d come with a woman and a kid, order a basic coffee or green tea, with sugar free. While clicking pictures with us, he hit his head against the decorated door ceiling, but he didn’t complain and shot pictures with us.”

Puri was married twice, with both his wives living not too far from each other. While his second wife lived in Trishul Apartments in Versova, his first wife Seema lived in a lane nearby. Trishul Apartments is surrounded by gardens on either side. The one on the right, Nana Nani park, is a well-known landmark but the actor didn’t go there much. 

“Om Puri didn’t come here too often. He may have come a couple of times in the last few months. He’d come with his son and walk for about 15 minutes,” said a security guard who’s been working at the Nana Nani garden for the last seven years.

Perhaps treading into a more public park would have been distracting, so the latter walked mostly in the garden on the other side. Though small, it was just a stone’s throw away from his apartment. This park is popularly known as Raheja garden. 

“It’s really hard to believe that Om Puri is not there anymore. I’d seen him last night with his wife at around 2.30 am. He was accompanied by Nandita ji (second wife). Though, he looked to have had his daily drink, there was nothing to suggest that it could get worse. We are in shock that he passed away this morning," said a guard at the garden.

The park was closed this evening much to the surprise of joggers, most of whom were not aware that the actor passed away. We bumped into an individual, who stays near his first wife Seema's residence. 

Leslie Fernandez (name changed) didn’t know Puri at on a personal level, but he was touched by his good behaviour.

“Puri ji often came once a day for a walk here. Despite being a Punjabi, who loved his alcohol, never did he once create any ruckus in the society. He was a very peaceful and humble guy. In the park, he’d greet other joggers. Though, he was a famous actor, at times he’d introduce himself as Om Puri. Perhaps, this was a sign that he never forgot his humble beginnings," said Fernandez.

The gentleman then shared an interesting anecdote with us.  

"While the Raheja garden isn’t owned by him, I believe he took special interest in the construction of this park and even paid for its maintenance. I remember how once he distributed the finest seasonal mangoes to the staff at the garden and joggers present. I was lucky to enjoy his generosity. He was a generous man, who didn’t hesitate in helping the poor. It’s really sad that he is no longer with us,” added Fernandez.

Now that the man is gone, it’s really difficult to gauge how he was, but as little as they knew about him for these individuals Om Puri will be a humble, gentle and generous soul. Family and friends sure will mourn his death, but Om Puri will be missed dearly by every locals whose lives he touched in small ways.